“My brain is getting so bigger!”

One of the most common challenges I face being a Special Education Teacher is: student mindset. I think back to when I was in school and most of the “class clowns” in my class had a difficult time learning. It’s not common knowledge to us teachers that students may exhibit more behavior if they’re not understanding what is being taught, but too often our teacher actions contribute to students internal dialogue about themselves as tiny humans and learners. Guilty of it myself, it’s incredibly challenging when you’re putting hours into lesson planning, engaging classroom management strategies, and decorating our classrooms, that when a student appears to not care or try– we take it personal and often react in a negative way that to some, affirms the little voice they hear on a daily basis. Some kids might not even need any teacher influence at all and instantly recognize other classmates are reading faster than them, spelling more words correctly, and remembering how to switch mathematical operations– resulting in a negative internal dialogue and the potential start of a fixed mindset.

As a middle school teacher for 3 years, I saw the damaging effects of students negative views about themselves and their learning can have on their path to graduation. I had always wondered when it all started– when the chose was made to act goofy, avoid school work, and bend school rules first started– when they decided it was easier this way. This year when I unexpectedly transitioned into an elementary school teacher (that story will definitely come later) I had the perfect opportunity to explore my wonderings.

I could go on forever about my experience this last year, but my biggest take away was the important of using science to build a foundation of brain growing belief and as their teacher, speaking my truth about their learning during our time together.

I wanted to share with everyone my favorite (and student collaborated) closing activity- “Growing my brain strength, one lesson at at time!” My students and I have done a lot of work around Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset this year. When I first arrived in Elementaryland in October, the majority of my students hated school, viewed themselves as bad, and thought they were “stupid.”

I had a large brain in the back of my classroom where we would add neurons after we met the objective of the day. It slowly transformed into little brains on each of their desks– where I showed a list of our learning goals and they drew a neuron if they met that goal or connected a neuron if they met an objective to a previous goal. We created the worksheet together and– here we are 🙂

I’ve been using it with my 2nd graders during summer school (all elementary school students are at one elementary summer school program) and they absolutely love it! One of my previous 1st grade students (now 2nd grade) stood up on Monday and started dancing after our closing circle. He started singing, “My brain is getting SO BIGGER!!” and asked me to pass the message along to his 1st grade general education 🙂 Everyday, all 13 of my students add neurons on their brains– some 2 and some 5, but they’re starting to see their growth and believe in themselves– that’s my goal.

Here is my second little FREEBIE! I hope enjoy 🙂 If you have any questions- please let me know!





Ashley Boston

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